I Almost Didn’t Make the Start Line

I Almost Didn’t Make the Start Line

“It felt as if everything that had happened so far in my life had been leading me to this point, preparing me for this task, and that I was uniquely equipped to pursue this quest. It was a perfect collision of personality, past experience, purpose, and timing.”
― Roz Savage, Stop Drifting, Start Rowing.

My meticulous plan for my final few months in the UK was collapsing around me. My final client project was interrupted by a falafel wrap induced food poising. My body woke me at 2am sweating. In dread. In the knowledge of what was to come. I tried to power through my gastrointestinal struggle. In the office two days later. But I soon reached the appearance and productivity of a zombie and had to write of the rest of the week and weekend.

But project still needed to be completed. That meant my consultancy now ran into my study time. I’d started my degree (Development with Economics at University of London and LSE) that year so this was my first exam for a decade. I nursed myself back onto solid foods while surrounded by sticky notes, ebooks and flash cards open on screen. Struggling to remember how to hand write for over 2 hours straight.

Somewhere in there I had to find the time to build my bike, plan my route, arrange insurance, injections, plan for emergencies. Each night I sat on the floor of my flat poring over maps, spreadsheets and online bike stores. Falling asleep with the laptop beside me. Jolted awake a few hours later by fear. What had I forgotten?

Three days to go and I wasn’t going to make it to the start line. Everything in my life had brought me to this point. I’d finished my consultancy project two days behind. I made my maths exams and felt confident that I’d get marks. I set Sofia, Bulgaria my first destination and got my inoculations against seven global diseases. But I still didn’t have any wheels for my bike. In my room sat a few hundred pounds of useless bike parts. I’d yet to even start putting the bike together. For the last two weeks I’d been stuck the labyrinyth of DHLs automated phone system. Trying N64 style button combos to try and get to a human voice. So far my wheels had a nice tour of London. Never quite managing to arrive at their supposed destination. I was getting nowhere. To top it off my excess of stress and lack of sleep built into a stinking cold.

Would I be able to build the bike in time?

Ride Out

Thanks to a few well placed tweets the wheels came. Thanks to the inescapable turning of the earth the day came.

With the cold still lingering I cleared the last of my belongings from my Peckham flat. Bagging up plates, clothes, fixtures and fittings into a large green sack. I’d not had a chance to arrange a new home for these things and now it was too late. My sister had stayed over the night before and together we headed to Buckingham Palace. Waiting for me to see me off and ride with me, friends and family from each stage of my life so far. We rode out under a blue sky. Harry and Megan had even left the flags out for us. Heavy embroidered Union Jacks bordering The Mall hanging firm in the absent breeze. We passed Big Ben and the Westminster Clock Tower still covered in it’s white repair hoarding. We cycled along the Thames. The roads busy with busses and taxis ferrying royal wedding revellers home from their Saturday night. Across Tower Bridge and away from London. My home for the last 8 years.

Every dream, setback and experience in my life had brought me to this point. Now it was time to find out if I can do it.

Up Next

Throughout the trip I’ve been keeping daily diaries. Some are simple descriptions of my day, the distance, feelings and weather. Others, when I was buzzing and excited or lonely and scared, are more descriptive. Here are a few of my favourites:

View the entire Daily Diary for Leg 1

Over the coming weeks I’ll be publishing videos right here and on Youtube.

And I’ve begun a monthly podcast with my friend, colleague and business partner Dan Formless of Hoxton FM. We chat about the trip and any other topic that comes to our mind. Subscribe and download our first episode when it’s out.

Finally I’m publishing photos on my 1000 Empty Roads Tumblr and Instagram.

Ben

Ben Bowler is the Co-Founder of Chew, the live streaming community that connects a new generation of DJs, producers and personalities. Having built his career in music and media companies AEI Media and Vice, he noticed young fans today are no longer passive consumers but content creators as well. Launching Chew in January 2015 the community has exploded internationally in the first year and Ben has received press and industry notice, being awarded the IMS Visionaries award last year. Ben continues to build and expand Chew internationally throughout 2016.
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